Ukrainian Boy Reunites With Family In Queens

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

A Ukrainian boy was reunited with his family in Whitestone last week, having secured an expedited passage to America.

Mykhailo Kuzmin, a 4-year-old living in the Vinnytsia region of Ukraine, was able to move to the U.S. and join his mother, Natalia Kuzmina, at her home in Whitestone, away from the dangers of the conflict that has engulfed the country for months. U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville) helped speed up the process, getting Mykhailo, also known as Mischa, to America in only two months.

U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (left) plays with Mischa Kuzmin, who had recently been reunited with his mother Natalia (right), who brought him to Whitestone from Ukraine. Photo by Joe Marvilli

U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (left) plays with Mischa Kuzmin, who had recently been reunited with his mother Natalia (right), who brought him to Whitestone from Ukraine. Photo by Joe Marvilli

“I’m so happy that we were able to cut through the red tape and reunite Mischa with his mother,” Israel said. “Bottom line, a process that would have normally taken 10 to 12 months took exactly two months and two days.”

Mischa had been living with his ill grandfather during a period of turmoil and instability in Ukraine. Although Vinnytsia is located in the west-central area of the country, not the eastern section that had larger conflicts with Russia, it was still shaken by demonstrations and protests. As a result, Mischa’s mother and stepfather, Julian Zagorodnev, applied to have Mischa come to the U.S. in December, with no results.

In March, they contacted Israel’s office, which worked with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to prove that Mischa’s life was in danger and quicken the green card process. They also moved to expedite Natalia’s green card, so she could travel to Ukraine and bring Mischa back with her. The final hurdle was wading through the backlog of applications at the national visa center at the U.S. consulate in Kiev. Israel’s office got the center to prioritize Mischa’s application.

Natalia said she was thrilled that she was reunited with her son so quickly, having last seen him four months ago. She flew to Kiev and then drove to Vinnytsia to reunite with Mischa. Along the way, she saw the potential threats to her son first-hand.

“When I was traveling from Kiev to my hometown, I was traveling by car. There were a lot of military stops and a lot of military guys with guns,” she said. “I was so afraid. Thank God that my son wasn’t traveling with this.”
Despite the dangers, the reunion between mother and son was incredibly joyous for both of them, according to Natalia.

“I was so happy when I met him. We were both crying. We were the happiest people in the world. He was screaming and hugging me,” she said. “That’s probably the biggest happiness in the world: to see your child and be with your child and see him every day.”

Now that Mischa is in the United States, Natalia has begun to teach him English, of which he already knows a few words. She added that his American name is going to be Michael.

“Now, we’re trying to see some movies and some kids’ fairy tales in English. We’re also reading books,” she said.

Israel added that he would take the family to a Mets game in the near future. As for Mischa himself, he is appreciating spending time with his mother, Natalia said.

“He’s just happy and he’s enjoying having me around him. He doesn’t want me to go anywhere without him,” she said.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @JoeMarvilli.